Monday, 28 February 2011

Old Movie Madness - Sullivan's Travels (1941)

After my slating of Veronika Lake in "I Married a Witch" I was very curious to see her in another movie, and how glad I am that I bothered.

Sullivan's Travels is the story of a rich man moviemaker who has an urge to show the world the plight of the poor but realises he cannot do so without first hand experience.  Sullivan (Joel McCrea) the movie Director in question, decides to live life as a "bum" and heads out into the world of the Depression with nothing but 10 cents in his pocket and his real identity hidden in the sole of his shoe.

At the start of his adventure he meets a wisecracking young actress, (Lake - credited as The Girl) who kindly buys him some food.  To repay her kindness Sullivan "steals" his own car to drive her home but the theft is reported by his staff and the pair are arrested.  Once The Girl realises who Sullivan is she pushes him into his swimming pool, angry at being duped.  She has already developed an attachment to him though, and joins him on his second attempt to live life as a hobo.

After eating from soup kitchens, sleeping on the street and having his boots stolen Sullivan has finally had enough and he and The Girl return to Hollywood where she declares her love for him.  Unfortunately Sullivan is married, unhappily and for tax purposes only, to a woman who  and so the pair cannot marry.

To thank the hobos for their kindness to him during this time Sullivan decides to distribute cash to the poor and sets out dressed in his hobo clothes.  Sadly he is robbed and dumped on a rail car, waking in another city and being arrested for brawling when he panics and then forced into a labour camp. Whilst there he watches a cartoon with the men and realises the power of humour in bleak times.

In the meantime his assailant, the man who had earlier stolen his shoes, is his by a train.  The body is unrecognisable but due to the ID in the shoe everyone assumes Sullivan has been killed.

No one believes Sullivan is who he claims to be until he has a brainwave and confesses to his own murder.  His picture is then featured in Newspapers across the country and The Girl recognises him and has him released.

During his incarceration, his wife, believing him to be dead, has set herself up with another man and so he and The Girl can marry and he resolves only to make comedies in the future to make people happy.

The film is great on many levels.  McCrea underplays the role very well, he remains calm while all around him are caricature.  This allows the viewer to see the change in him as he slowly falls for The Girl and realises the value of humour.  Remarkable given that he took ma violent dislike to his co-star and refused to work with her again. His role is a tender one and very well played. 

Lake is also magnificent, she shows great comedy timing and a lack of vanity, dressing in men's clothes as a hobo.  Her tiny stature compared to McCrea's also ups the humour - most sites claim she was only 4'11" tall.  She is hilarious done up as a boy, bringing a little Vaudeville style to the streetcar scenes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it is a film with a message about how films do not need a message. 

Enjoy the trailer:

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A fabbydab weekend!

I really have had a wonderful weekend, there is a lot to be said for not getting drunk and spending the whole weekend hungover after all!

On Saturday I got up at 7:30 ish and sorted a pile of things to eBay - will hopefully put the things online this week.  As per my last message I absolutely hate putting things on eBay - the whole process annoys me. 

Anyway, I started Saturday with a hearty breakfast and then trotted over to the local Charity shop where I found the most amazing skirt.  I think it is late 50's but it is a great 40's length.  Thick blue and green tweed with pleats in a slightly bouckle texture.  £4.  Win.

I then wandered over to the Tara Starlet sale which, luckily, was only 10 minutes away from my flat.  It was a real crush, but luckily I had taken my tape measure and so didn't need to try things on.  I left with 3 blouses, a pair of trousers and two massive hair flowers.  The only thing that didn't fit well was the red seersucker blouse, but I think I can find a suitable home for it. 

I then wandered to a pub and drank a couple of ales while waiting for my gal pals.  There happened to be a vintage sale on at the pub and I found an amazing late 30's crocheted top in a shiny coral.  It really is beautiful.  The pictures don't do it justice.

Excuse my chipped and very unvintage nails!

Today was very relaxing too, a bit of pottering about and some housework and lots of movie watching.  Just the rest I needed.

What have you been up to?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Selling things on eBay is such a chore.

I have so many things I need to sell - things that are too good to throw or donate to charity reallyh (and I need the money) but, BUT, I really hate selling things online.  Etsy isn't too bad but it takes forever for things to sell, while eBay is just horrid all round.  Loading things up on the site takes forever and even using Auctiva is a pain.


I'm listing things anyway though, so if you want to take a look try here (link amended and more stuff to come over the next week).

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Old Movie Madness: Carmen Jones (1954)

An interesting and strange film this, one of Otto Preminger's (Laura, Whirlpool) and typically controversial. The film is an adaptation of the 1845 novella "Carmen" and uses songs from Bizet's opera with rewritten lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.  

The film is set in WWII, where Carmen (Dorothy Dandridge) is working on an army base sewing parachutes.  Carmen is lusted after by all the men on the base, with the exception of Joe (Harry Belafonte), a young man due to take his pilots training, and this just serves to enflame her interest in him.  Being so popular with the men on camp has made her very unpopular with the other women and Carmen soon gets into trouble for fighting with coworker and is sent to jail.  Poor Joe is given the task of transporting her to prison, meaning he cannot marry his sweetheart Cindy Lou as planned.

Carmen takes this as an opportunity to seduce Joe, and he valiantly fights off her advances.  Deciding she cannot charm him into letting her go, she bolts, and after he chases her they end up at her grandmothers house where he finally succumbs to her advances, only to wake in the morning to find she has done a moonlight flit, leaving a letter saying that although she loves him she had to leave as she cannot bear to go to jail.

Joe is locked up for letting his prisoner escape and faithful Cindy Lou visits him there only to arrive just as a parcel from Carmen arrives.  Realising he still has feelings for her rival she leaves devastated.

While Joe is locked up Carmen finds a job in a nightclub and waits for him to be released.  Whilst working she catches the eye of Husky Miller, a prizefighter, who demands that his Manager gets her to join him in Chicago. Carmen refuses, she does not want to miss Joe, and that night he does indeed return.  They are thrilled to see each other but when Joe tells her he has to go back to base that night she tells him that if he really was passionate about her he would go AWOL to be with her, he refuses and Carmen threatens to leave with his Sergeant, prompting a fight and Joe knocks out his adversary and he and Carmen go on the run to Chicago.

They rent a room but their money soon runs out and Carmen hunts down Husky and his entourage who have some of her nightclub singer friends with them.  When she returns to the apartment with a new dress and groceries Joe knows something is up, they argues when she will not tell him where the money came from and she returns to her friends.  Her cards are read and she draws the death card and this starts a spiral of hedonistic behaviour as she decides to live her life faster as she approaches her death.

Joe tracks her down at one of Husky's boxing bouts and pushes her into a store cupboard and pressurises her to return to him, she refuses, with tragic results.

The film is interesting on many counts - it has an all black cast, something unheard of for a major studio production in 1954 and in order to make the movie Preminger had to finance it himself, being unable to find sponsorship.  Also unusual for its time is the obvious pre marital sex and the sight of an actress in her underwear, without a slip.  This is no twee Doris Day flick, with levels of realism and grit unusual in a 50's musical.  The movie also sparked a romance between Dandridge and Preminger - which shocked the public on two counts - him being married as well as this being a mixed race romance.

There are a lot of things wrong with this movie, the music really doesn't fit the film and frankly I think this would have been a stronger piece without, but I've never been a fan of musicals anyway.  There is also a fair amount of cultural stereotyping, with the song lyrics written in what Hammerstein assumes to be an African-American accent:

"Love's a baby dat grows up wild,
An' he don' do what you want him to;
Love ain' nobody's angel child,
An' he won' pay any mind to you.
One man gives me his diamon' stud,
An' I won' give him a cigarette.
One man treats me like I was mud~
An' what I got dat man c'n get."

Which is especially pronounced given that in their speaking sections the cast do not use a similar accent at all.
The film has also been criticised for portraying African-Americans as using black magic and being amoral in 
regard to sexual matters, most especially that there is no moral voice in the film to condemn Carmen's actions
(you'd think the ending itself does that but hey, some people are never happy).
All in all a very strange movie - yet somehow compelling.  Dandridge is beautiful, sexual and plays her role
perfectly, Carmen's battle between greed and love being played out sensitively.  Belafonte is the weak link,
his wooden and emotionless performance making Joe a two-dimensional character.
Worth watching as a piece of American cinema history if nothing else. 

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Knitting update - one piece down and three to go

I feel like I have been working on this for ages but it really is slow going, the wrapping the purple behind the work slows me down so much.

Anyway - I'm really proud of this so far. The back is complete.

Old Movie Madness - The Spy in Black / U Boat 29 (1939)

So, I'm off sick from work today as I woke up at 5am with my first real proper migraine - I couldn't see properly - very scary.  After managing to squintily type a text message to my boss, I took slightly too many Tylenol PM and eventually managed to sleep for another 5 hours.  My head is still banging but at least I can see now.

S.O.S - save our sequins!

Ah, I do love a little bit of bling.  Vintage sequins are a beautiful thing, if notorious for coming unravelled or melting when washed or dry cleaned.

I would like to introduce you to one of my favourite frocks which is sadly in need of repair.  This beautiful little black rayon crepe dress has stunning shirred shoulders with big shoulder pads and a sequinned collar and peplum.

Sadly I was only able to wear her once, as the sequins began falling off and I have been too scared to put her back on since.

As such I need your advice.

Should I

a) sew the existing sequins back on more securely and leave the gaps as they are
b) resequin the entire thing with some vintage sequins such as these (what a job!)
c) take off all the sequins and just have a versatile little black dress - if a tad dull
d) something else entirely - all suggestions gratefully received.

And for your vintage delectation, some sequin frocks available for purchase now:

Swirly slinkiness:

Purple perfection:

Oh, chain me down!

Pink and black gorgeousness:

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Marilyn - Hollywood Icon: an exhibition 12 March - 31 October 2011

I am so looking forward to this new exhibition, as featured in todays Evening Standard.  It is opening at The American Museum in Britain, in Bath, next month, but there are talk about bringing it to London and I jolly well hope the do.  If not, well, I've never been to Bath - anyone fancy a trip?

The exhibition shows many of the Miss Monroe's personal possessions - everything from film costumes to her orange squeezer (one of only two things she claimed from her divorce from Arthur Miller).

There are over 65 exhibits including the pink wiggle dress from Niagara, the chiffon dress from Some Like it Hot, costumes from The Prince and the Showgirl, the aforementioned juicer, photos of her mother and a figurine of a dancer she was given during her time in an orphanage.

This promises to be an intimate portrait of a woman many were and are still in love with.

The curater states

"From the objects in the collection I've realised how much she'd gone through in her life,
only to fall to pieces at the end - a tragedy."

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Another fabulous Koster and Murray knitting book!

I just couldn't resist this - and I now have 4 from the series so am very proud.

Just feast your eyes on the pictures:

The cover illustration would make a fab tattoo.

I cannot imagine how long it would take to knit this!

 Finally the perfect ribbed cardy pattern:

Pretty little waistcoat:

I must make this hat!

And this:
 And this blouse:

She looks scarily like the Queen Mother: